Some North County Love

Gone But Not Forgotten: A long-standing icon on Chambers Road in Ferguson, MO.

The inner-ring suburbs of North St. Louis County deserve a little attention.  First up, the Ferguson Planning and Development department is buying up small, foreclosed homes for future use.  This has long been a “if I had development money” dream of mine because as life gets too expensive to live it out on the fringes, people will start to migrate backwards over the former White Flight paths.  This will make inner-ring suburbs desirable locations yet again.

Read the Ferguson land-banking article here.

North County finally has a blog!

NOCO StL is a relatively new venture, and nicely done, especially this poignant reporting on the closing of a Jennings institution.

14-Year Old Boy Murdered on Meadowlark

meadowlark-jennings-01

2800 Block of Meadowlark Drive
Jennings, MO

The headline on July 4, 2009 read, “14-year old shot and killed in Jennings.” The second paragraph reported that it happened in the 2800 block of Meadowlark, and my heart sank. It’s too sad for comprehension when a young boy is riddled full of drive-by bullets. That I intimately know the street where he took his last steps kept haunting me.

So I had to take a drive to the old neighborhood; I needed to know where it happened. It was easy to spot the memorial at the bottom of the steep hill on Meadowlark. The stuffed animals underscored just how young he was. I saw ghost images of my kid-self walking past that spot hundreds of times, right past the house of the neighbor lady who ran out to administer CPR to the boy as he died. Tears welled up, and I got lost in remembering Meadowlark.

meadowlark-jennings-02

I was born one street south of Meadowlark, and when maternity leave was up, my mother had to find a babysitter. A neighbor said a woman on Meadowlark babysat in her home, and to give her a call. So my mother called Mildred Conine, who told her that she had recently stopped with full-time babysitting. My mother was desperate, and asked if Mildred could just watch me for a week while searching for another solution, and she agreed. After one week of taking care of me, she told my mother she would take the full time gig because I was such a quiet and sweet baby. Conine (I called her that because I couldn’t master the first name) and I were together for 12 years. She saw me take my first steps. She was my Other Mother.

The picture above is from May 1973. That’s me on the left, with Conine’s step-grandaughter, Debbie, on the front porch of her home at 2845 Meadowlark. The house was 600 square feet, built in 1939, with a full basement, a detahced garage that always smelled of the sawdust her husband Ray created, and a gloriously huge backyard for 2 dogs and a most wonderous vegetable garden.

I think about that house as much as I do Conine. After my parents divorced in 1973, she and the house were the only sense of normal I had left. It was a safe and happy place offering up endless adventure.

meadowlark-jennings-03

The last time I visited with her was Christmas 1978. Then puberty came and my life went selfishly beserk, as teenage girls usually go. Conine died in 1988, Ray a few years after that. Over the years, I kept regular tabs on the house, noticing when the asbestos shingles were covered with vinyl, and that the garage was starting to cave in on itself. But everything else about it – and the street – was still so much the same that it was always a special “return to those thrilling days of yesteryear.” Always a treat until…

meadowlark-jennings-04

…the spring of 2005, when I found boards on the windows and a condemnation notice on the front door. I stood on the front porch and broke into hard, devastated tears.

meadowlark-jennings-05

The picture above is a view from Conine’s front porch. That large building in the distance is Northland Shopping Center. Conine (who never had a driver’s license) and I knew about 7 different routes to walk to Northland, and did so at least twice a week. We’d see $1 movies, get groceries at Schnucks and each trip usually included a stop in at Kresges, where the toy aisles babysat me while Conine shopped. Conine and Northland are forever linked in my sense memory.

And in the spring of 2005, crews had begun swinging the wrecking balls and dismantling Northland, which was already disturbing me. Then to swing by here and see Conine’s house vacated and condemned? It was too symbolic, too unfair and hurt deeply. So I just sat on the porch and cried for the past, the present and no future.

Northland disappeared, but Conine’s house got a reprieve. Someone bought it, fixed it up and sold it! It’s still occupied to this day. That was an optimistic turn of events for 2845 Meadowlark. But over the following years I’ve noticed something odd about this block.

meadowlark-jennings-06

On the map above, “A” marks the spot of the memorial, “B” is the Conine house and the blue outline highlights all the houses on the opposite side of the street that are now vacant and condemned. In 2006, only one house was empty, and since Conine’s place got a second chance, I figured so would the one across the street. But as of July 4, 2009, 8 houses in a row are dead.

meadowlark-jennings-07

While Conine’s side of the street (above) is intact and occupied, the other side is an overgrown, sad mess of decay. It’s the kind of mass decay that breeds trouble and makes uneasy neighbors. The news will probably not follow up on why the 14-year old was gunned down in a drive-by, but certain assumptions can be made when you see desolation row across the street. It happens all too often, and it will never not hurt for the people who once lived there, and the people who live there now.

I got back in my car and sadly, slowly drove up the street, seeing both the past and the present. And then why this death was bothering me so finally hit me: A young life was violently stamped out and he was the symbol of the present state of this block. He has no future. Does Meadowlark?

UPDATE
Follow-up information about the shooting.

Northland Shopping Center Artifacts

Let’s carry the story into 2006, by sharing what I saved from Northland Shopping Center.
Reminder: Should you want it, the entire story is here, and enlarge any photo by clicking on it.

Northland’s main sign (above, left) stood diagonal to the West Florissant and Lucas & Hunt intersection. For decades, it was the community’s bulletin board.
When its demolition date arrived, they obviously didn’t bother to dismantle it; they just crushed and whisked (most of) it away. Broken pieces of the big plastic letters were partially buried in the dirt. The “R” (above, right) was the only letter that remained recognizable. In my backyard, it certainly does look like a haggard “P,” yes.

The Northland Cinema (above, top) was built in 1967. I took the last pictures in Spring 2002, including the pool-side-fabulous lobby (above, bottom left). Darren Snow and I visited on July 2002, and the cinema had been thoroughly demolished, the last of its remains in a few large trash dumpsters nearby. To which D. pulled his pickup alongside so I could climb atop the roof and get into the trash dumpsters, desperate to get a recognizable souvenir. My only “save” was a single, baby blue ceramic tile (above, bottom right) that was once part of the ladies’ restroom sink backsplash. It’s only 1″ square, inconsequential at best, but simply holding it makes me feel way better than any new age crystals they sell.

On that same day, we waded through the forest of fallen light poles (above, left) that once surrounded the Cinema. The metal parking-place reminders that hung around each pole turned out to be rather huge. Darren was the toolbox-wielding hero (above, middle) who patiently cracked decades of rust and snagged us some parking reminders. “A13” is somewhat heavy and bulky (above, right), but that’s what makes it the perfect sunroom muddy-shoe-holder.

The former Baker’s Shoes storefront (above, top left) yielded a few treasures. The original door pulls (above, bottom left) were long-coveted, and once vandals broke a display window, I was able to get in and take the handles, which had been sitting on the vacant countertop (top red arrow in top left picture) for over 2 years. They are gorgeous.

During a summer 2005 visit, Rob Powers was dead-set on having the Baker’s store address (above, bottom middle). Rightly so, because it’s in that smart Lever House font. I dragged a 6 ft. ladder down from the (now easily accessible) Former Kresge. Darren’s magic toolbox had the right size screwdriver. Rob spent a good 15-minutes of cursing under his breath, and finally dislodged (above, bottom right) the Dirty 30. Since he was so diligent, he deserved to keep it.

I also had to take a brick from Baker’s (above, top right). Special Nerd Note about this photo: the Baker’s brick is sitting atop a limestone brick from the old Cross Keys Shopping Center. It was part of the former Kroger grocery store facade.

Baker’s Shoes eventually became Kingsbury Shoes (above, left) and the hanging promenade sign (above, top right) eventually became mine (above, bottom right) after the wrecking ball smashed this section into dust.

From the Former Famous-Barr (above, top left), I dragged off a stone brick (above, top right). A few days later, Brett Reagan (above, middle right) brought along his pickup truck to help me gather more FB stuff, like a chair (above, bottom right) that came from the FB Human Resources office. I figured out its provenance from there being so many of these desk chairs sitting nearby the Employment Office entrance. Plus, after 13.5 years as a Famous-Barr advertising employee, I was overly familiar with the furniture in the areas where folks filled out employment applications.

The FB door pulls (above, middle left) were something I always longed for, and I now had clear access to removing them, but we had no frickin’ tools! While we stood talking inside the building, we kicked at piles of debris and up popped a solo door pull! The sucker (above, bottom left) easily weighs 10 pounds, and is dashing in its modern simplicity.

More FB fixture finds include a fire alarm (above, left) and a tin placard that Michael Allen pulled from an AC unit (above, right) and was so kind as to let me keep.

I waited a couple of weeks for the sign revealed in the FB window (above, left) to become available. So, it’s large but it’s old foam core, so it shouldn’t have been a problem, right? Oh man, it was brittle, large and awkward (above, right) and was the hardest thing to load into Brett’s truck.

The begrudgingly optimistic sign (above, left) that sat inside the former candy store’s vacant display window was eventually scooped up by me as it fluttered by in a post-demolition wind.

The sign died in the above, left windows, and later I got a patch of the ceramic tile (above, right) that covered the display facade.

The exterior stairwells of the Northland Office Building (above, left) were wings of metal, concrete and Mondrian stained glass (above, top right). During demolition, the glass fell to become candy sprinkles on the sidewalk. I oh-so-carefully carried off some really sharp shards (above, bottom right), and they never fail to remind me of so many moments of sunlit abstract beauty in the stairwells.

The ground floor lobby of the Office Building (above, top left & right) was straightforward linear, with its only organic texture being the tile walls. One had to stand right against it to notice how jet-age loopy the rock pattern was. I later learned a deep appreciation for those rock walls only after I got a chunk of it (above, bottom left). Those are halved pebbles of polished granite embedded in a sand base. My little piece has heft and presence, and the “Made In Italy” stamped on the side (above, bottom right) reveals a high price tag, even back in the mid-50s. Which just highlights how Northland developers and architects never skimped on materials. The construction and the finishes were for important permanent buildings, so they figured the cost was worth it. So, cost pro-rated by 50 years, they probably got their money’s worth…

The former Kresges at Northland was my Xanadu, and while I got a few things, I never got the chance to thoroughly dig through the guts in search of authentic Kresge souvenirs. The wrecking ball and rain got to it before I got a final crack at. But I did get to tear off a piece (above, bottom right) of Kresge’s upper level facade (above, top). Those sheets of coral and red enameled metal were screwed on for eternity, and I even lost my best screwdriver in the fray, but I won the fight (above, bottom left) and took away a valid, solid chunk of S.S. Kresge & Co.

On another day, I was happy to just get an original thermostat cover (above, left & right).

But for me, the most-coveted item in the place was the original Coke-Cola clock (above, top left). Forever it hung on the back wall of the upper floor; when Conine said to meet her by the cash registers in 15 minutes, that clock kept me from losing solo toy browsing privileges. At some point, a cat lover permanently altered the clock face, but I still wanted it bad.

Many times I tried to work up the nerve to walk inside as McCrory Furniture staff cleared out the store, and simply ask if I could have the clock. But if they knew it was important to me, they’d want to sell it for some absurd amount, I’d refuse and they’d keep the clock to spite me. That’s how revved up I was about snagging the clock – imaging fights with furniture storeowners.

I kept a vigilant eye, and finally Powers, Snow and I had unrestricted access and a ladder. Despite repeated attempts, we couldn’t budge the giant, heavy clock from the wall, and my heart was breaking. I was so close, the clock is right here in my hands and I can’t have it! Just cruel.

About a week later, Vince Mattina and I found the clock had been carefully removed from the wall, and sitting on the floor not too far from where it hung (above, middle left). It’s way too big to fit into my car, but what about just taking the clock face? The hands (above, middle right) had to be removed in order to free the face plate, and I failed miserably at it, almost snapping off the hands in anger. Vince was far less emotional about it, and methodically removed the hands (“Now, you have to save these, too. It’s the best part.”) without aid of tools. My hero, Vinceman, freed the clock hands and face, helped me cart out the bounty, and even took my picture (above, bottom) with the hard-won prize. It was a triumphant moment of relief and happiness, certainly the biggest mount in my trophy room (above, top right).

The stairwells at Northland (above, right) were always a visual and physical delight. On one visit, one of the canister lights (above, left) had fallen down onto the stairs. The scale of Northland was so large that all ornament on it seemed normal-sized when seen from the sidewalk. But when finally right up on a piece, it was overwhelmingly large. This canister light was monstrous. So huge that I had to pass on carting it off, and I regret not having made the effort. It would have made a unique and durable trash can.


And here’s the last piece of Northland I own (above). I have no idea exactly which store it came from; it peeked out from a pile of debris on the northern lower level, so I scooped it up. This one square foot ceramic glazed tile summarizes the Northland in my mind. That particular shade of blue is so mid-century modern, so cocktail lounge cool, so New Frontier. It’s the big brother to the little sister Northland Cinema tile. If all my Northland artifacts were in book form, this tile would be the cover.
A warm “thank you” to all the people who helped me cart off “chapters” of the Northland story.

Northland Demolition, Part 5

September 24, 2005
The last visit was September 4th, 2005. The entire chronological saga is compiled here. Also, by clicking on them, all photos enlarge for better viewing.
After a 3 week absence, I was shocked to see the tower (above) still standing. But the demolition crew had moved their Porta Potties, so they were ready to get serious about crushing the southern upper level.

Circling around all sides of the tower (above left & right) was an odd sort of Maypole dance.

In preparation for the final crush, the Walgreen’s sign was uncovered (above, left), and capturing this Mondrian-esque sight (above, right) made me nostalgic for when Walgreen’s had a killer liquor department. It was one of my favorite places for last-minute Christmas stocking stuffers. But in the late 1990s, the Mormons reportedly bought the corporation, and they banned the booze.
7 doors north, all the glass was stripped from the former jewelry store, making it easy to take one last lap around the ravaged space (above, left). It also featured a hatchet edge (above, right) where I could stare straight down into the abyss that was once the Famous-Barr building and the entire north wing, upper & lower levels.

Staring up from the lower level, the same jewlery store can be seen on the far left of the above, left picture. One normally only sees neat sections on building blueprints, but from this view, it was a section plan come to life. It’s a fascinating reveal of how the upper & lower levels worked, and how the wide array of facade materials formed a large, modern mosaic. Down at the West Florissant entrance to the Office Building (above, right), I got one of the last shots of the upper & lower level play of the south wing. With the plexiglass walls gone, it becomes a pure, unobstructed view of the basic, geometric building blocks that was the ingenious premise of Northland.
The Rubble Mountain (above) was getting ever taller. Even though the concept of climbing the busted remains of Northland creeped me out, it was too unusual to let a self-timer photo opp pass.
No, I don’t usually spelunk demo sites in a dress. I’d come straight from work. And in my left hand are pieces of the stained glass from the Office Building (far right in the photo) exterior stairwells that were now available. A Scavenger Sidewalk Sale, of sorts.

Here’s a small collage of uncovered signage and tossed toilets. I finally got an unobstructed shot of the Staten Island Cleaners sign (above, top right). When the dry cleaners vacated, a chop suey joint took over the space. It looks as if when they installed their own sign, they simply knocked the Staten Island sign over onto the roof.

October 9th, 2005

2 weeks later, exactly half of the south wing has disappeared (above). And I zoom in on what the demo crew left behind when the closing bell sounded at Friday quitting time.

As sad as it is, there’s also beauty and grace within demolition scenes. Goethe said “architecture is frozen music,” but when its busted pieces are crashing and fluttering about, it thaws to become a sorrowful, minor key symphony. In the case of the Foxmoor storefront (above, left & right), it also felt like an action sequence that came to a halt when the film reel jammed.
Or a giant’s game of Pick-Up Stix (above). The light poles just barely missed falling into the pit. Also note the 4 round green planters near the top center of the photo.
As the crews have methodically dismantled and cleared each space before crushing it, they carefully move these planters out of the way, rather than obliterating them.

It’s so odd, for the crews have to physically move these planters from place to place. But it’s also comical, because the planters now resemble a Greek chorus traveling behind each new wound, pointing and contributing commentary. These planters have become bookmarks, or a perverse version of Where’s Waldo? as I crane to find them somewhere within each frame.

A close-up view (above) reveals about 5 layers of paint over the years, with the original layer being the light blue that dominated the Northland color scheme. Also, I always assumed the planters were made of concrete, but it’s actually a fiberglass & plastic mixture. This makes them relatively light-weight, and easy for the demolition crew to move about like checkers.
Hmmm…would I be able to move one from the site and into my backyard?
The Northland Office Building was wide open and prepped for the big crush…
…with machinery lined up to attack. So I figured I better get inside for some final detail shots before it was gone for good.
Even more stained glass was missing from the external stairwells (above, left), which left beautiful confetti on the sidewalk below.
Coming in through the south-facing main entrance, I’m surprised at how much of the original finishes remain. There’s the simplistic handles of the glass doors against the space-age shaped mosaic tile (above, left) , and the goblet-shaped metal canister lights (above, right) that were prevalent in many commercial spaces during the late 1950s.
Exit the building from the north-facing side (above, left) and head over for the last look at what remains of the south wing’s lower level (above, right).
I finally got to see what material had comprised the black rectangle (above, left), since they were now scattered on the ground. Each panel was metal covered in porcelain enamel (above, right), which surprised me. That material was recently out of favor for facades, with its heyday being the 1930s and ’40s. For the Northland architects to pick that material for use in a purely decorative manner was a nice touch.

Of course I tried to salvage one of the panels, but like everything at Northland, the pieces wind up being much, much larger than they seem from ground level. This single panel was about 3′ x 2′, and way too heavy for me to carry over a long distance. Since the site was completely closed off and torn up, I had to park at the stand-alone Blockbuster up near the Lucas & Hunt/West Florissant intersection and walk a bit to get to the demolition. While it never seemed like a long walk previously, carrying a 35-pound enamel panel would make it feel like a mile. So, I had to leave it behind. I still regret that, but then, where would I have put it?
Considering how fast the crew moves when they’re cleared for take off, I had a feeling this was my last moments with the tower (above). Actually, I was hoping it would be, because I was worn down by the anticipatory dread. But I was torn between wanting to capture parts of its demise, and just returning to see it completely cleared (like the grocery store) so I wouldn’t have to see such a grim sight.

October 16th, 2005
On this day, I turned 40, while Northland only made it a scootch past 50 years old. I hope there’s no symbolism involved here.
And I caught the last gasping remains of the once-mighty-pretty tower (above). While the crew completely cleared everything immediately around it, they left just this last bit standing, almost as if leaving me a birthday present. Thank you…. I think?
But the Office Building still stands in the background (above). Which made sense when I pondered it; the demo crew is very methodical. They won’t crush the Office Building until they’ve completely cleared the last bits of the mall, proper. Environmental Operations, Inc. have been fabulously meticulous throughout this long, hard process.
The Greek chorus (above, left) moves to the southwest, to sing a final farewell to the tower, while trekking directly north of them, I find a sign (above, right) patiently narrating what all this rubble once was.
Looking west at what was the stairwell to the lower level, the still-standing bank can be seen on the left side of the above, left photo.
Once there was a multitude of stainless steel columns, but now we have the Last Mohican (above, right). I tried my best to salvage any piece of the still-vibrant stainless steel, but the sections were either too long or too large to handle by myself, or were jutting out of piles that could have turned into a massively scary game of Jenga if I pulled incorrectly.

Since the bank will remain open for the duration of the demolition and new construction, I shot one of the drive-up ATM kiosks as a future reference point (above). Once everything is demolished, spatial relations change drastically, and it’s difficult to pin-point what was where. By picking something that will remain, it’s easier to find the phantom spot in the future, should I wish to engage in morbid memories. But so far, I just want this to be over with.
Save for the main one, all identifying signs (above, left) still ring the perimeter of the property. I’d love to get my hands one of those Exit signs, but again, they are really huge. I could get someone to help me cart it off, but then where would I put it? Turn it into a coffee table, maybe?

Above, right, standing in what was the lower level, and shooting through, and past, the iron framework. And it’s still a weird, creepy feeling to be standing on what was a solid building just days ago.
This was the southern lower level shipping and receiving garage, which lead to an entire city’s worth of neighborhoods underground. I never realized just how massive this place was until they dismantled it. The dry cleaners/chop suey joint was to the immediate left in the (above) photo, the stairwell to the right. In the last years, one could always smell urine when walking past this spot. Now it has a brief chance to air out…
Here’s the last of Northland’s 3 stairwells (above), which had been sealed off since at least 2002. And again, we see the plaster not so much falling off, but peeling off to hang like a curtain. It truly is an impressive sight. All that weight hung like that for another 2 weeks or so, which points out – yet again – how tightly and strongly this place was built. And which is why it’s taking so long to tear it down.
Which makes me think about the place that will replace Northland. In about 25-30 years from the date it opens, it will be crushed for some other new development, but at that time, demolition will only take about a month or so. Meaning, the advantage to building cheap, flimsy new buildings is the built-in demolition savings in the future. Very clever, that.

From the lower-level pit, I look up for one final goodbye to The Tower, and then had to split for some birthday merriment. But it felt good to spend a little time with a place that has meant so much to me over these 4 decades of life.

October 24th, 2005
At the very north-eastern of the Northland property (see star on map, above), there was an organic, pedestrian-made foot path that took you from the top of the hill down into Northland, just behind the cinema. Many of us walked to Northland back in the day (I know I walked to more than was ever driven to), and many still do; every time I’ve been at the site, easily 20% of the folks I encountered were on foot.
The new developers have acknowledged that path, and made it official by paving it (above, left). Nice touch, truly, because it shows they’ve acknowledged how people in the community have – and will – use the place. Then I get to the top of new sidewalk, and….

(Above, right). What the piss?! Some well intentioned but dunder-headed street department worker decided to cap off the metal guard rail! You can see how fresh it is, and how it violates the freshly laid concrete sidewalk! What were they thinking?!
Oh, they weren’t thinking, obviously.
Build an official pedestrian path, and then block it off…brilliant, just brilliant.

OK, the young can easily hop over it, but what about the old? And even as I photographed this jerk move, 3 little kids were riding their bikes across the Northland lot. They pedaled up the new sidewalk, and confronted the new roadblock. The 2 boys quickly got off their bikes, picked them up and over onto the outer sidewalk. Then they pedaled off, leaving behind the little girl, who couldn’t pick up her bike as easily.
Putting her bike on its side, she pushed it under the rail, then hopped over to pull it out the rest of the way. During the solid minute that she spent overcoming the obstacle, the boys had long-since disappeared, and she had to frantically pedal off to find them.
Either Sansone (the developer) needs to get over there and remove that end cap, or someone in the neighborhood needs to take a chainsaw to it. Either way, fix it!
Northland was a 65+ acre property, very hilly. My father tells of hunting rabbits on that forest-like property back in the 1940s. The original Northland architects worked with that landscape, creating a multi-level structure. The new development will obviously be one level, on flat ground. Looking north (above, left, and note the Greek Chorus in the distance), see that everything has been filled in. The demolition remains were packed down to form a foundation, and fresh dirt caps it off.

Looking west towards the Office Building (above, right) better shows the line of demarcation. I’m standing on the fresh ground near the border of debris. Construction-wise, earth moving is a budget killer. It’s often wiser – both financially and ecologically – to build with the land then to rearrange it (as in the original 1950s construction). But when “recycling” this property, they recycled parts of the building as their in-fill, and only had to pay for enough new dirt to ice over it. That’s a large budget relief. Plus, it’s also cheaper to build single-level dry wall & brick boxes. So, this does highlight why developers are constantly looking to scoop up previously built-up land for their new enterprises: huge savings.OK, I admit that I was slightly annoyed to see the Office Building still standing. It just prolongs my agony, drags all this out far too long. But the medicine ball had been moved into place (above), so they’d be gettin’ busy on the Office any day now.
Here’s a still-life (above) of newly-yanked Office debris. I call it “Mid-Century Electronica.”
Knowing the ball would be swinging, I went back inside the Office Building to find a souvenir. The lobby (above, left) always had the crazy sophisticate marble mosaic tile, and the chunk that fell off the corner (above, right) was laying there for me to cart off.

And as I gathered loot, a fellow scavenger walked in. Earlier in this visit, I’d noted a man (and his pick-up truck) moving about the large piles of building debris on (what remained of) the upper-level Actually, I’ve seen a lot of these types; they’re probably rooting for copper. Since no one has every truly guarded the site (I’ve stared right at Jennings’ cop cars as they drove past me, and just kept going), so why not retrieve anything of monetary value?

On this day, as I photographed from the pit and he surveyed trash piles above, we visually acknowledged one another, and kept going. Later, as I sifted through the dislodged junk inside the Office Building, I heard him walk in, talking on a cell phone. Again, we made eye contact and casually went about our business, which was an oddly comforting form of corpse communion.
And here’s what (finally) became the very final shot of the Northland Office Building.

November 9th, 2005
Almost 3 weeks later, the Office Building is now thoroughly gone (above).
The bank building finally becomes a stand-alone “out lot.” It’s odd that this building survives; it was the last bit to be tacked onto Northland, and then the Last Mohican. But money talks, and this place remains defiantly open.
From the upper-level (above, top), it’s shocking how much space the bank actually took up within the complex. But when viewed (above, bottom) from the northern-most end of the property (I’m standing on the train tracks for this shot), the bank just looks sad and misshapen when divorced of context.

And my physical work at Northland is basically finished. I’m relieved.
There’ll be 2 more posts about it: the memorabilia I carted off; friends old and new who joined me during this odyssey along with commentary and memories from those who loved the place just as much as me. Until that time…
Miniature Memorial To The Northland Office Building
As a kid, I mentally referred to the place as “The Marcus Welby, M.D. building,” and it always reminds me of Flipper.
To keep me occupied while in the waiting room, Conine bought me a Flipper coloring book, which was purchased at Kresges, on our way to her doctor appointment. I colored in about 3 or 4 pages before asking the receptionist if I could have the key to the restroom. I took the coloring book with me (why?!) , and didn’t realize I’d obviously left it in the bathroom until many hours later.
The Gasaway Pharmacy had been on the 1st floor from the very beginning to the very end, and never once remodeled. Their goodbye note is above (click on photo to read a larger version), and note that it was composed on an old-fashioned typewriter.

Northland Shopping Center


Northland Shopping Center
Lucas-Hunt Road & West Florissant, Jennings, MO
Northland is a personal and architectural obsession of mine. If you want back story and photos, go here. An architect pal o’mine understands my obsession, and I thank him for publishing wreckage updates when I couldn’t bear to. In this space, I will visit various aspects of Northland’s demise, but for this moment, some hard news.


Wednesday, June 15th was the Ambassador’s last night of business at Northland. They are still trying to find a new location, and are even contemplating building a new place from scratch since relocating has turned into more of a hassle than anticipated.

As Northland dies and Buzz Westfall’s Plaza on the Boulevard rises from the ashes, Sansone is actively recruiting tenants to fill in the details of what Target and Schnucks will anchor. The Ambassador (and a subsidiary of Spruill’s International Catering) wanted to sign on with the Plaza, which seems like a win/win situation for all parties involved.

But the Ambassador was given a “no thanks.”
London’s Wing House – a successful outlot building nestled right into the West Florissant and Lucas-Hunt corner – must also leave (and this, after the owner dropped a big chunk of change on remodeling).

The Ambassador, Spruill’s and London’s Wing House are privately owned minority businesses with a sizeable and loyal clientele. They kept Northland alive for the last several years. But they are not corporate chains, so they are not welcome at Buzz Westfall’s Plaza on the Boulevard.

Even though this news doesn’t shock me, it still really pisses me off.